The Dawn of Dark Pollution

A Short Story by Melissa F. Kaelin
Speculative Fiction; About 5,600 words

♣  ♣  ♣

Under the moonlight over the Lake Street Bridge,
With a wooly swoosh and four skittering paws,
Those eyes as dark as an onyx bead…

He reaches out to grasp a notch in the sky, and
~ The split opening with the pull of a zipper ~
Disappears into an Elysian night.

♣  ♣  ♣


One of the lights on the bridge went out, long before dawn.

The scent of young flowers drifted on the breeze, after a cold spring rain. A half moon set behind dissipating clouds. But for the stale glow of city lights, the sky was dark above Minneapolis and Saint Paul. So, too, was the Mississippi River that flowed beneath the Lake Street Bridge connecting the two cities.

Zach placed one hand over the brown messenger bag hanging at his side and turned to check behind him. There was no one there, and with a second glance at the sidewalk ahead, he realized he was alone. The bulb in the streetlamp must have burnt out.

He walked across the bridge, the same way he did every morning after his ungodly early shift. It was chilly, as usual, and the wind blew across the bridge in gusts of damp air. Another light post on the same side of the street went dark. Zach was a tall man, but he was skinny and frail. He’d rather be safe than sorry. Instead of wandering unaware into what waited ahead, Zach stopped on the sidewalk. He listened. The city was quiet. There wasn’t even the buzz of rush hour traffic. Not a hum. Then he heard it.

Shhhhhh … pop.

It was a small sound. But it was barely audible.

Zach thought he heard a swoosh, too. Maybe it was the spring breeze rustling through the flower buds, hanging in the baskets over the bridge. He realized another light had burnt out, right behind the other one.

“Huh.” Zach glanced at his cell phone, curious about the time. It wasn’t even 3 a.m. If the streetlamps were run by sensors, there was no way they could mistake this hour for daylight. Or even dawn. The night sky above Saint Paul was as clear as highway sludge – not a single natural light source in sight.

That didn’t exactly mean it was dark.

Maybe there was a damaged wire on the bridge. Something had caused a short circuit. Or the filaments in the bulbs had simply cracked. It had to be something commonplace. Or a coincidence.

Zach was intrigued by the way people in the cities used so much light. Maybe it was because he often finished his shift as a Metro Transit signals technician at odd hours in the morning, when darkness was a welcome shade. He wasn’t really afraid of the dark, but light sure made his job easier.

Traffic signals, neon pub signs, streetlamps, the wig-wag headlights of the light rail. The city needed light for safety and security purposes, and Zach was tasked with installing even more.

Right here in the Longfellow Neighborhood, there’d been a demand for new light fixtures at transit stops. While it might lead to more light pollution, the existing lights just weren’t enough. Add a few more bulbs here and there, and the inner city residents could have safe streets and keep their Circadian Rhythms, too.

Eager to get home and hit the sack before the sun came up, Zach continued on his walk. He made a mental note to contact the city about the streetlamps, and he hummed a low tune. As he crossed the arched bridge, he studied the streetlamps above him – golden lanterns contained in gothic frames. Only, these lanterns relied on ordinary bulbs as they curved toward Saint Paul, shining above the sidewalk in a neat row.

He admired the way the light leapt onto the river below the bridge, and cast a cool reflection back at the city. There was something to be said for working a sort of graveyard shift, especially if it meant you could see a different side of the Twin Cities on the way home.

Zach was more than halfway across the bridge, when he saw another streetlamp go dark. A second bulb went dark behind this one. Then a third.

One by one, the lights on his side of the street went dark. Baffled, Zach slowed his footsteps as he approached the riverside road. He stopped in his tracks, just in time to watch the last bulb on the east side of the bridge go out.

Shhhhhh … pop.

Zach looked behind him. He swung his bag and turned a full circle, wondering what could have possibly made the sound. It sounded just like the noise he had heard before. With the light pollution from the cities, he could still see fine. But he realized something had changed.

Something happened at that spot on the bridge. The breeze grew still. The air temperature dropped. A flicker of light blinked in the dark, seemingly growing smaller in size until it vanished. Then everything returned to normal.

A haggard-looking man carrying a brown paper bag was crossing the bridge behind him, but the man was at least 20 feet away. The flower baskets that hung along the sidewalk began to blow again in the wind. But what did any of this have to do with the city lights?

Giving up on his curiosity, Zach turned onto the street that would take him to his small studio apartment. When he reached the riverbank, a woolly lock of fur brushed across his neck, and he called out in surprise.


He fought the impulse to run. His studio apartment was just a few blocks away, down a lit path that reflected in the Mississippi River. But Zach stood still, right by the garbage cans near a pocket park. The haggard-looking man had turned back toward downtown, and the wind had died down. The only thing of note was a scruffy raccoon that stopped for a second to study his shoes.

“Not edible,” he muttered.

The nocturnal creature had a black mask for a face, and a spot on his tail was burnt to match. It flicked its tail, and scurried off into the darkening night.

♣  ♣  ♣


Switches. Track circuits. Controllers. Grade crossings.

From installation to emergency repair, Zach monitored these things day in and day out. With more than 56 stops at each station during the week, he had his work cut out for him as a signal technician. He focused on the Lake Street station. It was one of the busier stops, smack in the center of what he dubbed the Midtown mess.

That night on third shift at the light rail had been taxing. The traffic light and crosswalk signals had failed at the worst possible intersection.

Zach nearly lost his nerve as he rushed to return the signals by the Hiawatha Avenue stop to their former functionality. A pedestrian took up a complaint with him, while he worked on an emergency repair by the traffic signal. It wasn’t really his job to handle customer relations, but he was caught in the cross wires.

“What’s so hard about public transit?” The woman had dark features, and a hint of an accent that he couldn’t place. “If I’m trying to walk through here, the signal should come on and show there’s a train coming. Why is that so difficult to understand?”

“Could you just –” Zach had his hands full. He had opened up the box on the traffic signal and was knuckle deep in tools and sensors.

She sighed with exaggerated sound, and folded her arms across her chest. She was just like the other customers he met. Annoyed. Impatient. Dismissive. Like everyone else in the cities, she had places to be, buses to ride, appointments to make. If he wasn’t part of the transit solution, he was slowing her down.

“There,” Zach said. “It’s fixed.”

“Oh, sure,” she said. “Now, it’s fixed. The whole neighborhood already passed through here.”

Zach apologized and referred her to the customer service hotline. Referring inconvenienced customers to the hotline was a new strategic priority for the light rail, but it didn’t work. The customers only came away angrier.

♣  ♣  ♣


Zach was still bleary-eyed when he lumbered out into the city streets. He’d set his alarm for noon, way earlier than he normally awoke. He was intent on catching Mindy long before his shift on the light rail, eager to help her restore electricity to the signs outside the bar. It wasn’t like she could just trip the circuit breaker. She would need professional help.

The Lake Street Bridge looked different in the glaring sunlight, forcing Zach to squint as he looked east. He crossed the bridge as quickly as his tired legs could carry him, and paused only when he reached the other side. The neon signs, which were still lit during the day, dotted the businesses along the street. But one adorning the coffee shop on the corner suddenly fizzled out.

‘Open’ lost its color and went black, implying the coffee shop had instantly closed. The sign made a whisper as it faded, followed by a strange pop.

Bewildered, Zach turned to look at the opposite side of the road, but that corner along West River Parkway was mostly residential. When he turned back around, the electric sign on the eclectic paper store had gone black too. He started to walk again, hastening his step, and running through crossroad intersections to get to the bar where Mindy worked. She may be eccentric, but at least she was observant. If they compared notes, maybe they could get to the bottom of the electrical problems.

After he crossed 45th Avenue, Zach glanced up into the unrelenting sunlight. A small bird zipped by overhead, coasting effortlessly under a pale blue sky with fluffy white clouds.

A small cloud disappeared, leaving the impression of a black spot on his eyes. He shook his head and kept moving. He must’ve looked right at the sun. He passed a streetlamp on his way, half expecting to see someone climb up the lamppost and steal the bulb, but the streetlamp was fine. It wasn’t turned on, of course, being set to shine at night. But he could see the shape of the bulb from the sidewalk.

To the left of the lamp, the tree branches shook. The leaves rustled, even though the air was still.

Shhhhhh … pop.

The branch turned black. No, that couldn’t be right… Zach rubbed his eyes. Maybe the leaves were already dark in color, and he just hadn’t noticed before. But they appeared to be extremely dark. Now, he was definitely imagining things. That’d teach him to get out of bed before noon.

Awkward on his lanky legs, Zach broke into a run, and hurried down the street. He approached the bar where Mindy worked and slowed. She was kind to him and acted like they were old friends. In reality, they were glorified passers-by, running into each other only at the end of their shifts.

She would only have just arrived for her shift, but apparently she never made it through the front door. Instead, she stood outside, surrounded by people. Seven adults gathered around the front of the establishment, looking up and studying the windows. Their voices combined in confusion. They moved in half circles and pointed in different directions.

“Zach,” Mindy shouted. “You’re an electrician, right?”

Zach walked up and stood to face her. “That’s one way to put it,” he said. “I repair the signals for Metro Transit.”

“It’s just a normal short circuit or something, right?” she said. “You know how to fix this.”

He followed a gesture of her hand to the neon signs in the windows. From the ‘Open’ sign, to the many varieties of craft beer that were advertised beside it, the signs had all gone black. Pure black. The neon hues weren’t really needed in the sunlight, but these signs were so dark, it was hard to imagine how they got their color. They could have been comprised of charcoal or lava rock, or stone extracted from a mine somewhere in northern Minnesota.

“Nothing about this is normal,” Zach said, his voice sinking.

“Can you get them to turn back on?” Mindy asked.

“In all probability, it is not electrical.” Not only did the odd coloration appear to be inside the glass tubing, but every single sign on the bar had gone black.

“I’ve lived here for forty years,” said an elderly man with salt and pepper hair and a brimmed black hat. “In all that time, I haven’t seen anything like it.”

“Excuse me, sir.” Zach walked up to the signs and examined them closely. Only to turn back around.

Gasps rose from the group. Together, they faced Lake Street, and stared into the sky.

Suspended twenty feet above the curb, a swatch of the sky went dark. A patch of black hung in the air, the size of a rail crossing sign.

“What in the name of…” Mindy started hollering in a pitchy voice. “Get back! Get back! Zach, what is it? What’s going on?”

Zach walked up to the curb, positive it was a trick of the light. As he moved through three-dimensional space, the scenery turned to match the angle of his eyes, all but for the swatch of sky. It might have been two-dimensional, a flat hole in the air, but the sun shone on either side and above it. Below it, a deep shadow drifted down to the ground, providing respite for a few ants who’d been sunning on the street.

“By George,” the elderly man said.

A closer look, and he thought he detected a glint of stars inside the swatch.

A pang of panic found Zach, followed by a desire to be industrious. This was an emergency outage. A high priority repair. No more, no less. Zach’s light rail mind kicked into gear, and he started moving in between people and working as a technician.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please step back,” he said. He held his arms out to his sides at full length, as if to set the bar off with the caution tape. A wooly sensation swiped his arm, and he dismissed it, picturing for a second the fibrous seeds that floated on the air each spring. “I’m going to need everyone to cross to the other side of the street. If you’re not an employee, please move calmly to the other side of the road.”

In a confused shuffle, the group gradually began to take his advice. They meandered to the other side of Lake Street, barely checking traffic as they moved into the road. A car swerved and squealed its tires, trying to stop before hitting a young man. When the vehicle had stopped, diagonally blocking off the street, the driver got out of the car and stared at the suspended darkness. Other drivers followed suit, and soon, the entire side of Lake Street was gawking up into the sky.

“Mindy, where is the owner of the store?” Zach asked. “We need to shut this place down and run some diagnostics.”

“You’re looking at her,” she said, with a snarky smirk. “Come on, Zach! How many times have we crossed paths, and you still didn’t know that?”

“I… uh…” Zach stuttered. He was such a loner, they hadn’t become much more than acquaintances. His stomach flipped as he realized her role in management had never come up in conversation. “Right. Can you show me around the back?”

“What about them?”

Wishing the sun would slide down in the sky at least, Zach looked around. His gaze switched from the business to the gathering crowd, and back again. He was at a loss.

“Wait,” he said. “It’s happening again.”

Another swatch of the sky went dark, about a half a block down. Still the size of the crossing sign, it was centered over the street. The sun shone above and below it, but to the trained eye, a star could be seen inside. A bird swung down from the leafing trees and flew right underneath the spot. Tweeting at first, the bird’s song drifted into a lull when she crossed through the deep shade, then she went straight to a nearby nest.

Sounds of disbelief rose from the crowd, but no one knew what to do.

“Stay where you are,” Zach shouted. Mindy was looking to the east, turning now and then to cast a suspicious glance at the first swatch. She held her arms tight to her sides, poised for a throw down, as if she expected something to emerge from the darkness. Zach’s curiosity got the better of him, and he wandered up the street to the west, curious to get closer to each new patch of black.

A swatch went dark again, ten feet above the traffic signal. It was a ways down the road, and the routine of the city continued in its usual way. Stores welcomed shoppers, auto mechanics opened the garages, and people lined up at the Dairy Queen for their first taste of the warmer months. The only difference was the darkness in the afternoon sky – an increasing amount of black swatches. Even the urbanites went on with their day, most of them too busy or distracted to look higher in the air than necessary.

Yet another swatch. This time in the residential air on the south side of the street.

If Zach strained his ears, he could almost hear the same sound he had heard before.

Shhhhhh … pop.

♣  ♣  ♣


By sunset, the chaos had everyone on Lake Street convinced.

Zach lingered at the bar, standing outside in swarms of confused city residents. He didn’t know what it looked like in other parts of the Twin Cities. He couldn’t just zip over to check, because he didn’t own a car – he’d never needed one. If he couldn’t walk where he needed to go, he simply took Metro Transit. But swatches of the sky had been going dark all night, joining at the edges like watercolor paint, to blot out the natural light.

When the dark patches touched, they formed an umbrella of darkness. A black tarp in the air, spanning from ten to fifty feet up. It was a nice umbrella – dotted with twinkles of light and the impression of stardust – but to see above it, Zach would need a crane or a small airplane. Or maybe someone could run their bike up a makeshift ramp and launch it high enough above Lake Street to see. Even as he pictured this, Zach dismissed the ridiculous thought. The cyclist would need to get 30 feet of air, to even have a chance at clearing the fabric of darkness.

“This can’t be happening,” Mindy said. She’d taken to emptying the glass bottles from the bar, bringing craft beers outside one or two at a time, to sit on a bench and brood.

“A dream.” Practical responses escaped Zach, who was struggling to shed light on the subject. “Maybe it’s the middle of the night, and this is just a dream?”

The traffic had come to a standstill, even the cyclists and city buses, and the sight wasn’t lost on anyone. Previously too consumed with creature comforts to appreciate the sunlight above them, the urbanites stopped and stared in one direction. Up.

They gathered in clusters on street curbs, or cowered in bars or their cars. Some of them even walked a whole block, persuading themselves they could go about their daily life, until the illusion died at the next street corner.

“I’m charged with installing new lights,” Zach told Mindy, as he stood next to her. “People think the transit stations get too dark.”

Mindy laughed so hard, she spit out her beer. “Are you serious, right now?” She slapped Zach on the back, right in the middle of his spine and so hard he lost his lanky balance.

“What?” He didn’t know what she found so entertaining.

“Now, you’re falling all over me.” She shot him a playful look. “Get ahold of yourself.”

Zach caught his balance, his cheeks getting hot from the embarrassment. “I should completed the install while I still had a chance.”

The world was going dark, and somehow he still cared what she might think. “We’ve tried everything,” he said. “You took down the neon signs. I called the city. Both cities. The energy companies don’t know what the hell is wrong. There has to be an explanation. A malfunction in the artificial light that’s somehow…”

“Spreading to the environment? I don’t know, Zach,” Mindy said, with skepticism. “There’s nothing left for us Longfellow lifers to do. It’s not like you can just switch on the day. Or switch on the night, for that matter.”

“We’re missing something.”

“Doubt it. We even pushed a ladder into the abyss, and nothing happened. We held it up so long, we almost dropped the damn thing, but it just came right back out.”

“Unchanged from its initial state,” he added.

“What else can we do?” she asked.

Zach scrunched his lips up to his nose, trying to think of answers.

Mindy emptied another bottle. Then she reached over to slide it gingerly into a recycling can she’d dragged outside.

“If I’d installed those new lights by now, at least there would be one place to go that was lit.”

“There’s still light, Zach,” Mindy said. She pointed at a few examples right on Lake Street. Most of the sky was dark, but a few of the electrical bulbs glowed inside and outside. There were even a few remaining swatches of sunlight, where a fiery orange hue lined with violet shot out in multiples onto the street – rays of a sunset obscured.

“It doesn’t make any sense!” Zach insisted. “The outages are completely random. It can’t be the power grid. The whole street would be out, and over on the other side of the bridge, they still have a lot of light. Well, a lot of artificial light. It’s like someone is going around, picking and choosing what light they want to put out.”

“Sounds like me, when I go to sleep.” Mindy giggled.


“Oh, don’t you ever do that?” She looked lazily out onto the hectic mosaic of the sun setting and darkness shining. “Every night before I go to bed… I mean, I like things a certain way when it’s late. I turn out the light in the kitchen and the hall, switch on the nightlight in the bathroom, and turn on my bedroom lamp. When I know the lamp is giving off a soft glow – I’m actually really picky about this – I turn out my patio light and ask my neighbor to turn off his too.”

“Why the outdoor light?”

“You know, for the animals. Some of us are practically nocturnal.” She laughed, and nudged Zach with her elbow, even though she was buzzing, and he was still standing apprehensively beside the bench.

“The light is almost gone on this side of the river,” Zach said.

“So is the day.” She smirked.

“Very funny.”

“Well, it’s true,” she said. “We’ll have light bulbs to get us through to morning. The darkness isn’t dangerous. It’s just…”


“Night time. If a little odd…”

Now, it was Zach’s turn to laugh. “Okay, you’re right. As long as a few lamps stay lit –”

“Whoa.” Mindy stood up, moving slightly toward the Lake Street Bridge.

They were a few blocks away from the bridge, but the neighborhood offered a window into either side of the river. The views were expansive on both sides. The lights in Saint Paul went dark, a power outage that affected every building in sight, at once.

“Grid collapse,” Zach said. “I knew it.”

“We have to do something,” Mindy said. “Maybe they don’t know about the swatches in the sky. What if no one told them?”

“But there’s no fix. No repair for it.” Zach was struggling. He knew they should do something, but he couldn’t conceive of what. They didn’t even know what was causing this.

“Where’s your car?”

“I don’t own one.”

“What.” She laughed loudly, unbridled thanks to the beer. “Come here.”

A tipsy Mindy walked around the establishment, and Zach followed her dutifully, until she arrived at a bright red Suzuki parked in the back.

“Get on,” she said, climbing onto the bike.

“You’re drunk,” he insisted.

“Fine,” she said, placing a helmet squarely on his head then fastening her own helmet. She shoved the key into the ignition and scooted back. “You drive.”

“I don’t kno – “


“Okay, okay,” he said, turning the key. “How hard can it be?”

Mindy wrapped her arms around Zach’s lanky and leaning body, and with more sparks than a malfunctioning electrical box, they botched their way onto the road. He managed to avoid the people standing at every corner, but nearly wiped out twice, before he got control of the bike long enough to drive across the Lake Street Bridge.

“Where are we going?” Zach asked.

“Hell if I know,” she said. “Don’t you have connections at the city or the utilities department or something?”

“Me?” Zach said. “No, I work for the light rail.”

“I know,” she said, her voice tense.

Zach nearly sent them both barreling down the riverbank on the east side, after a wooly sensation on the back of his neck startled the daylights out of him. By now, Mindy was practically driving the bike from the back. She managed to steady the thing, but not before the bike rumbled onto the sidewalk and into the grass, spilling the luggage she was carrying onto the riverbank.

“I’m going to get you a sidecar!” Mindy reached her hand forward to steady the bike and steer them back up to the road. On Marshall Avenue, the same street with a different name, she straightened the bike out. She guided Zach’s hands, as they approached another intersection.

The traffic signal was out. No cars were on the streets, but they had another problem. One of the last remnants of daylight went dark in a swatch four feet tall by four feet wide, and Zach swerved like a maniac. He leaned into the brakes, narrowly avoiding injuries to them both.

“My turn,” Mindy said, when the bike was finally still. They hadn’t gotten very far.

Zach got the hint, and stretched his long legs over the bike to dismount. He was shaken. But what should’ve been concern for a bout of whiplash was instead a preoccupation with lightlessness. Obviously, driving the bike had been a mistake, but what he really wanted to do was find the nonexistent tripwire. Shut down the darkness.

“Man, you rattled us both,” Mindy said. She gave up entirely and got off the bike, walking away from the street and scoping out a place to rest. “There’s a place to sit down here, on the corner. Will you join me?”

“Sure.” Zach barely found his breath.

As they moved to a ledge where they could sit down outside, they passed some nice shrubbery and vivid April flowers. The neighborhood was still a gem, even in the pervasive dark.

“Saint Paul is so sweet, you could almost forget something was seriously wrong,” Mindy said. “Look at these beautiful blooms.”

He looked at the plant life, but quickly spotted something else. “That’s not a flower.”

The two of them stared at two round eyes, which reflected the bike’s headlight. It was still beaming from the street above, the bike barely turned off before they both hit eject.

Mindy grabbed Zach’s arm and held him close to her side. “What is that?”

The creature lowered its head while keeping its eyes on them, and the fast reflection of the only light in the city faded from its face. On four paws, the scruffy animal swept out in front of them, keeping its feet on the ground for the most part. It gave a flick of its tail.

“It’s a – ”

“A raccoon,” Mindy said. “Look how cute he is. I’ve never seen one so close. What do you think he’s doing saddling up to humans?”

“The lights.” Zach was hurting for words, nearly in a state of shock.

“I know, we can work on the lights in a minute. I just want to see if he’ll let me pet –”

The raccoon curled his scruffy tail, which was burnt on the end, and sauntered past them, disappearing into the dark.

♣  ♣  ♣


The darkness should have been comfortable, because it was nighttime. The setting of the sunlight had come and gone, whether by its usual descent to the horizon or the random disappearing act that’d plagued Minneapolis and Saint Paul. It was hard to tell which.

Zach and Mindy were still in the dark, as was every human being in the city.

But so was BlackJack, and he intended to keep it that way. With his four paws and his wooly fur, the small creature skittered across the Lake Street Bridge, winding down around the edge to a spot where he could rest on the riverbank.

The east side of the Mississippi River was a welcome sight for BlackJack. He’d worked hard the last few days to bring back the Elysian Night. After all, rest was the only thing he wanted. At the sound of human footsteps, he scurried back up the hill. He shook his head. Sleep would have to wait.

“It’s been a long night, I know,” said Mindy. “But I’m glad we came back to this spot. I lost the bag when the bike nearly wiped out. Hope we can find it.”

“If you find it, at least we’ll have done one thing right.” Zach followed Mindy, as she retraced the path of the bike when it veered off the edge of Lake Street, on the east side of the bridge. “Maybe that’s something.”

Their legs sore from the crotch rocket rodeo, they gingerly made their way down to the riverbank. “It’s here,” Mindy said. “I found it. What a relief.”

They found their footing on a steep incline and stood still for a minute, scanning the darkness for signs of the Mississippi, detecting the curves in the water under a new moon. Taking it in, there on the riverbank, they were quiet. They used the other four senses to make up for what was missing without well-lit sight.

“This is unbelievable,” said Zach. “After tonight, I think every light across two cities is gone. Not even burnt out. Just gone.”

“Well, I do still have one light bulb left,” Mindy said.

“Oh, yeah?” Zach was surprised. Even a small functional light would be a comfort beyond compare. Hope that all wasn’t lost in the space between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. “How is that possible?”

“I always carry it with me, just in case I need to warn people of my passing in the dark,” she said. She held it up and switched the LED light on. “It’s my bicycle flasher. See?”

“It lives,” Zach said. “Light!”

“There will always be light,” said Mindy. “Hopefully, there will always be darkness too. It’s calmer, don’t you think? I just try to use less light during the night. I can’t stand the thought that I might have anything to do with that eerie glow – the glow that hovers over the cities at night. It’s not natural.”

“Tell that to the city officials,” Zach said. “They plan on installing more lights for years to come.”

“Maybe, that’s progress,” Mindy said.

BlackJack swooshed out into the open, eager for a reprieve. He’d hidden himself beyond the Lake Street Bridge, as he did every night, but he used his paws to swing around a lamppost and glide swiftly down to the riverbank. He walked on the grass in front of Zach and Mindy, well aware that they could see him.

With eyes as dark as an onyx bead, BlackJack trotted up to Mindy. He glanced at her, then turning his attention on the blinking light, clutched it between his claws. He frowned, stole it from her hand, and trotted back toward the Mississippi.

He stood on his hind legs, lifting into the air, while he faced away from them. He reached out to grab a notch in the air, and pulled the notch down, unzipping the sky.

Turning once, BlackJack flicked his tail, as if imparting his thoughts. He popped the LED out of this world, and slid into the dimension behind it, leaving a swatch of darkness in its place. He turned to take in the night, now darker than ever across the Twin Cities.


For a raccoon who inhabited the rift on the Lake Street Bridge, whooshing in and out of  notches on the sky, BlackJack would finally have his Elysium. Maybe he should feel remorse, but if humans didn’t want to share in the night, why should he care to share in the day? If they couldn’t choose one side of sunset, then he would give rise to a kinder nighttime.

Now, it was done. The day would no longer shine in the middle of the dark. Instead, he had cleared the light for the dawn of nightrise.

♣  ♣  ♣


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© Copyright 2018 by Melissa F. Kaelin

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